Friday, March 24, 2006
Brian Jones - Rolling Stone
There were three changes to the poem of Lawrence Ferlinghetti over the years.
It was about a woman and in the first edition the poet closed lamenting how he, “could have fucked her.”
A second edition some years after transformed the lament to he, “could have had her.”
The latest turn had the mellow poet meditating on how he, “could have loved her.”
Ferlinghetti, the brave publisher of “Howl,” founder of the San Francisco Beat Mecca, City Lights Books, and purveyor of “A Coney Island of the Mind,” was giving a talk at the Los Angeles Times Books Festival, maybe in 2001.
A questioner questioned: “To what do you attribute the cop out in language as the years went on?”
“To my expanding feminist consciousness,” the master got a rise from the audience.
Long before the ladies at Old Dominion University’s women’s studies program got their slender little fingers on the scribe’s mind and convinced him addressing a lady as a lady was an insult to the lady, the scribe’s hero was Brian Jones.
Jones was a natural choice: a working-to-middle-class social barbarian having his way with the best daughters of a generation. And that, thanks to his guitar.
(This is what was important back then and that is all there is to be said on it).
A founding and driving member of the early-edition Rolling Stones, Jones was dead, when the scribe adored him, but not dead in any rock-and-roll sense. There was plenty to read about, The Stones already being 20-years-old by 1980. There was still the music, too, and the band, riding a second-wave of popularity thanks to “Some Girls,” a rolling historical representation of their own deep legend.
“I’m a resident of a city
They’ve just picked me to play
the Prince of Denmark
highwayscribery was going to take up Brian Jones when an article in Salon appeared regarding a film made about his too early and mysterious death. He was only 26, after all. A powerful guy.
This coincidence may not be tied to the scribe’s refined zeitgeist intonation so much as the fact that he, like Jones, is getting older and the folks around him have the money to get such projects done.
All those ghosts he never saw
Floating to doom
On an iron candle
Come back, brave warrior
Do the dive
On another channel
Anyway, the film is called “Stoned” and you can read about it, as well as an interview with the film maker, Stephen Woolley at Salon (you may have to watch a commercial first).
The article is conceived by Andrew O’Hehir, who has done fine pieces for Salon on topics disparate as the transformations in the art ghetto and the World Cup soccer tournament.
He tells us to prepare to enjoy a piece shot in-close that searches for the flavor of the times, in its intimacy, rather than scope.
Hot buttered pool
Under the falls
the wild storm
where savages fell out
in late afternoon
monsters of rhythm
Woolley told O’Hehir he sought to recreate the era, “through small details and through the music. [The soundtrack includes music by the Jefferson Airplane, the Small Faces, the White Stripes and other bands, but only cover versions of Rolling Stones hits.] You really get to see what Brian is wearing, for example, and what Mick and Keith are wearing when they came to fire him.”
(Fire Brian Jones!)
You’ve left your
to compete w/silence
Jones’ allure lies in the London he inhabited. A mythical London of decrepit hippy houses in decadent old neighborhoods, where gray-lipped girls in Yardley danced in acid circles around the dripping English garden of dew, in-and-out the wild things that fed on it. Ringing ankle bells. A London that shimmered with the enthusiasm of the Beatles racing in dark suits and workboy caps through Victoria Station. An England still very England in a time when the other countries were still very much themselves, too.
At least that’s the fantasy conveyed by the songs Jones played such an important role in producing and playing on.
When he died a pop press headline cried, “Goodbye Sweet Brian, Hello Baby Mick,” because the English Wood had been removed from the Stones formula, leaving the soul train to wail away untempered by a gentler sentiment.
I hope you went out
Like a child
Into the cool remnant
of a dream
These are the moody acoustic beauties like “Sitting on a Fence” spreading a lilting harmony laced with black humor and social criticism. “One thing’s not said too much, but I think it’s true, they just get married cause there’s nothing left to do... So I’m just sitting on a fence...”
And “Back Street Girl,” with its Parisian accordion; again a deceptively bittersweet pill: “Don’t ask to ride on my horse, you’re of a common course, anyway. Don’t want you out in my world. Just you be my back street girl.”
Of course, The Stones were commenting on the cruelties of class. The rest of us embraced the sexual thrill of a power to ravage and dismiss at will.
“I Am Waiting,” sees Jones laying down a thin and pretty track on dulcimer that typifies the early-to-mid ’60s London sound largely because he was inventing it, always with new and exotic instruments.
The angel man
for his palms
Here’s Woolley in his own words: “Brian was the person you wanted to visit in London in the early ’60s. When Dylan came over, he wasn’t interested in the other Rolling Stones. It was Brian he made a beeline for. John Lennon hung out with Brian. Pete Townshend thought Brian was the genius of the band...”
mad stifled witness
“I wanted to show that Brian was a truly original ’60s icon. He experimented with drugs, he experimented with sex, he experimented with music. In America, you obviously had your extroverts, people like Little Richard who were blurring the edges of sexuality. People who took their stage acts to extremes: Jerry Lee Lewis, James Brown, that spirit of showmanship.
“None of it was as intellectually fueled as Brian Jones, none of it was about Aleister Crowley or the Moroccan music he recorded. He was the first white guy to record those people..."
Which is why we are expending a dose of highwayscribery on him.
The diving board, the plunge
Woolley again: “But I want to remind people that at the heart of the Rolling Stones there was this rebellious, anarchic character who would push the boundaries, who would experiment in every which way possible, and that guy was Brian Jones.”
You were a fighter
a damask musky muse
You were a bleached
for TV afternoon
This is the type of idol that leads you toward a low-paying job in the liberal professions, or worse, the arts. Not to the banking community.
Here’s Woolley on the generation gap that characterized the era and which, he argues, was never stronger than it was then:
“As a child growing up, all my uncles and my dad had fought in the Second World War, or certainly had been greatly affected by it. So when these guys came along, these effete, long-haired, effeminate-looking pop star of the ’60s who got all the fame and the girls and the money, there was a huge amount of anger...
maverick of a yellow spot
Look now to where it’s got
“Those guys who had fought in the Second World War weren’t that old! They were only in their 40s at that time. They had come back home to London when it was a bomb site, and they were now witnessing this social change in Britain where, you know, anarchy and rebelliousness were the order of the day. Smashing guitars onstage, and letting your hair grow long.”
(Sigh). (Those were the days).
Jones lived well, but paid for his transgressions. He was jailed a couple of times for drugs and legend has it got quite paranoid about the police following him around, leaning on him. He grew frailer despite his youth and the band had less and less use for him.
In meat heaven
How cool was this guy?
Well, Woolley and O’Hehir repair to the past, the Monterey Pop Festival where Jones had made it his personal business to get American audiences to look closer at the hot new god Jimi Hendrix.
He wore the clothes in the colorful image above by Paul Berenson
The body, rampant, floating
What is this green pale stuff
You’re made of
If we’re to believe the nostalgia-charged hippy reminiscence (and how we want to), Brian also hung out that day with Janis Joplin and Nico, meeting perhaps, in conference on how to be forgotten.
Poke holes in the goddess
(And he played the blues harp on “Spider and the Fly”)
Will he Stink
Thru the halls
Requiem for a heavy
That porky satyr’s
has leaped upward
into the loam"
"Ode to L.A. While Thinking of Brian Jones, Deceased" by Jim Morrison.